13/05/15 Walk a Royal Mile

Whoa! Before any of you think…well, whatever you’re thinking…the Royal Mile I’m talking about is the one that goes from Edinburgh Castle down to the Scottish Parliament. 

I’m looking for people to walk with me and others to talk and share their stories. 
I’m also looking for artistic and none artistic types to come up with ideas for a walk a mile logo – don’t worry if your artistic talents are on a par with mine, we can use professional graphic designery types to tidy your work up. 
I’m also looking for volunteers to help grease the wheels to help it all run smoothly. 
I’m working with the fabulous folk at See Me Scotland to develop the whole walk a mile gig.  

 

This will start with folk walking that Royal Mile in September this year. 
And you’re all invited. Yes, you…even you…everyone. 
Ok, I’ve got a terrible confession to make. I know I’m in safe company here *looks fertively left and right – checks under the bed* so I’ll tell you…
The Royal Mile…well…isn’t… No, no, it’s not that – I’ve got no idea if it’s Royal or not…
No…
The shock-horror news is that it isn’t a mile. 
Apparently it’s a mere 0.89 miles. But I know that information’s safe with you…
It’s just that ‘Walk 0.89 miles in my shoes’ felt significantly less catchy. 
The aim is to get people to undertake this ramble with someone from another walk of life – we’re particularly interested in pairing up a vast array of healthcare/ social care professionals with the equally broad group of folk with lived experiences who may or may not have used services. 
My main reason for starting here is that, over my years of pillocking about in the world of social media, I’ve noticed that there are many divisions. 
People seem to operate in silos. You have your professional silos – your nursing silos – social work – doctor – psychiatrist – professionals allied to medicine silos:
And then you have your punter silos – your service users – your people with lived experience silos – your *insert any mental health malady you can think of* silos…
In my experience there’s not a huge amount of cross pollination between these groups. 
My feeling is that where there is a lack of social experience – virtual or otherwise – there is scope for the insidious tendrils of ignorance, prejudice and stigma to encroach…yes, on and from both sides. 
Our brains are fabulous. Where we lack knowledge/ perceptual information they perform a pretty groovy trick called ‘completion’.
For example, if we are briefly shown a familiar shape – but with part of it removed – we will perceive a complete shape – our brains fill it in. 
Pretty funky, eh?
We do the same with all our experiences of the world – which serves us pretty well.
However, at times, and with very little evidence, our wonderful minds will come with a pile of old ballcocks. 
Ballcocks that we’ll reinforce with any ‘evidence’ we find about the place, including the interweb. 
Walking a mile – sharing stories and experiences – will provide a starting point for change. 
For those of you who’ve been following this merry ramble, you’ll know that I’ve met all kinds of folk from all kinds of places, all of whom have one thing in common.
They’re fabulous. 
The vast majority of people are fabulous. 
Which, obviously means, you’re fabulous. 
We’re – See Me are funding this and more – setting up a website where people can share their experiences of this walk and hopefully others – anonymously or otherwise.
Folk can do this with photos, blogs, photos, stories, poems, podcasts, songs, videos…anything that can be digitised and launched up into the walkamile ether. 
My hope too is to enable folk to walk virtually too. If folk are housebound they can link up with others using Skype or any other black magic wizardry the interweb has to offer. 
I’ll be following this up with a definite date soon – but it’ll in early September…
If you want to be involved in any way shape or form, and/ or if you have any ideas about all this,  you can contact me in a variety of ways
Email 
c.mcculloughyoung@yahoo.co.uk
Phone 
07535035909
Facebook
I’m the only Chris McCullough Young in the world – so that’s easy – alternatively you can contact me via the walk a mile group here 
Or via Twitter here 
@walkamileuk
I’ll give you the name/ address of the website as soon as that emerges. 
I’ve got to say I’m rather excited about all this.
Walk a mile 
Chris 
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09/05/15 The “Aye Right’s” have it. 

‘Aye right’ is one of my favourite Scottish turns of phrase. It means ‘Is that so?’ with one eyebrow raised…

Bluntly, it means, ‘I think you’re talking ballcocks’

Back in 2010, there were 45,597,461 registered voters on the UK Parliamentary register for the general election.
Since I can’t find the 2015 figures, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for relying on those figures for the purposes of…
That said, we know that this election has seen the greatest turnout of voters since 1997. 
67%, or two thirds, of folk who were eligible put their cross on a ballot sheet, ensuring their place in history for austerity, whoops, my bad, posterity….
The stats show that, much to everyone’s surprise, the Conservatives crashed through the 300 odd seats required to give them the 51% majority in the Commons. 
Fabulous – this is democracy in action. 

That said, they got 37% of the votes…which is only a little more than a third…

No matter, we bought into this first past the post system – that’s the way it works…it just is…


No matter – just over 10 million people voted to ensure that Mr Cameron wouldn’t have to get the movers in. 

10 million – that’s loads of folk – surely that gives the conservatives a mandate to do what the fuck they like over the next 5 years? 

Ah, well, you’d think that…but here’s the section I’d like to call FUN WITH MATHS!

No, you’re probably right, but bear with me. 

So, 10 million, I think we’re agreed is a great big number. 

However, if we look at the We Didn’t Vote because *insert your own reason here* Party, we find they make up a third of people who were eligible to vote…

Which, according to my maths, accounts for 15 million people…

Hold on a second! So, the party that has the balance of power in the House of Commons got 5 million fewer (none) votes than those who didn’t…vote, that is. 

It’s more than a little weird that a country that flogs democracy anywhere in the world they can wave a flag, can’t sell it to a third of their own folk. 
Sure, blame the none voters – dangle the fate of the Tollpuddle Martyrs and the Suffragets over them…I mean, how could they?
In parliament, MP’s don’t have to take any one side in a debate – their right to abstain means they don’t have to affiliate with the Ayes or Noes without fear of derision. Their action – or inaction – is seen as equally valid. 
So why can’t we indulge our none voters in the same way? 
To my mind, this screams there’s a fucking huge vacuum in British politics. A rich vein of folk – every bit as valuable as you and I who, for whatever reason – disenfranchisement – the inability of those who’d call themselves leaders to connect with them – who knows, didn’t vote.
The reason we don’t know is because we haven’t asked them – and, as ever, if we don’t know, our minds will happily fill that gap with what? 
Prejudice. 
15 million people! 
The next time someone tells you the Tories have an unequivocal mandate…
Or that the 2015 election is a great example of democracy in action…
Or that we shouldn’t bother, there’s no hope…
Just tell them, “The Aye Right’s have it”
Walk a mile
Chris
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20/04/15 Don’t feed the animals

People are fabulous. Almost – and that’s a tiny ‘almost’, so small as to be negligible and not worth my attention, everyone I’ve ever met has been great – kind – compassionate – hospitable – trusting and trustworthy. 

Recently, a Super Sensational Soaraway Sun columnist, let’s call her, ‘Hatey Poptart’, has been writing hateful stuff about immigrants from Africa trying to make their way across to Europe on any manner of vessel, some of which have not been up to the job – with desperately tragic results. 
Flakey Foreskin has also written endlessly across Twitter, social media, any outlet that’s willing to have her, pedalling hatred of the unemployed, the overweight and, a personal favourite of mine, your average loony.
I’m delighted to wear this hat-trick of hate like a badge – to be targeted by her keyboard of contempt, hey, it really talks to me, you know?
Like many who bob around in a more left of centre part of the interweb and social media, I have chosen not to fan the flames of her ill thought through vitriol. 
However, for many the mention of turning gunships on migrants was a rant too far.
As I write, campaigns have sprung up demanding her removal as a writer for Britains best selling red top. 
I’m afraid, though, that this breaking from the cover of silence of the many who’d been doing their best to ignore her all these years, will have the opposite effect. 
By shouting ‘Enough!’ the masses, I believe, have shown her the level on the hate-o-meter that’s required for her antagonism to go viral amongst the more liberally minded. 
The same folk who stand by the oft quoted phrase from Voltaire’s biography by 

Evelyn Beatrice Hall

  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” 

I’m not sure if she had these circumstances in mind when she wrote this – but I think her words are as right today as they were in the early 20th century. 

Although, that said, it’s a little trite to stop there. 

Does Hatey Foreskin mean any/ everything she writes? Is this merely part of vitriolic bollocks PLC? 

Is this purely her way of turning a buck? 

Who knows? 

One thing I do know, by reacting with righteous indignation, we are feeding this particular beast with the only meal she seems to understand – publicity. 

Alternatively, she might really see the world in this way. 

In that case, she and I find ourselves on opposite ends of a continuum. 

Do I hate her? Do I despise her?

No.

I don’t know her.

I dislike what she writes, and, as I said earlier, I can only guess at her motivation. 

Does she think people, who are different from her in any way, warrant the daily attacks she launches from her James Bond bad guy island?

If that’s the case, in my opinion, that’s a horribly skewed filter she’s using to gaze upon something that’s rather wonderful. 
People are fabulous. That’s my skewed filter of choice. 
Why someone would court hatred in such a way is beyond me – but it screams pain. 
Was she, is she so isolated from people that she needs to build this massive barrier of FUCK OFF to keep them out?
Did her, well publicised, epilepsy galvanise a belief in her that she must be responsible for herself – that reliance on others is a sign of weakness – something she perhaps despises in herself – create a world that she has to keep at a distance?
Is the world that scary – that repugnant – to her? 
Is she unable to see the potential and actual impact of her words on the people who inhabit the many vulnerable groups she attacks? 
How can we…how do we put ourselves in the shoes of someone who’s beliefs seem so at odds to our own? 
These are words – nothing more – nothing less. 
Remember Charlie Hebdo? 
Je suis Katie Hopkins
Well, not really, but you get my meaning…
Walk a Mile
Chris
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Behind The Benefit Bashing Headlines Lies A Nasty Ideology That Is Not Confined To The Daily Mail

Originally posted on the void:

mustard-tree-protest A protest was held outside Machester homelessness charity Mustard Tree yesterday over their involvement with workfare. (h/t @gajagwyn)

There was a time when policies to send sick or disabled claimants on workfare, or sanction the benefits of lone parents, would have been met with horror by the electorate.  There have always been grumblings about the social security system, as with any other institution, but unemployment was once seen as a personal tragedy caused by wider economic failings, not a personal failing caused by laziness or the wrong attitude.

This change in public opinion did not happen by accident.  Just like immigration can be used to whip up and divide sections of the population, so can the social security system.  The implanting of the idea that somebody is getting something you aren’t, even if this isn’t really true, is an age old technique.  The grass on the other side of the…

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22/03/15 The One Hundred

#wordsdontcount
Jeremy Clarkson allegedly does something to his producer for apparently not providing him with a nourishing tasty meal after a hard day’s Top Gearing.
The powers that be at the BBC shut down Top Gear PLC to allow time for an investigation to take place.
Possibly for an investigation to be seen to take place. 
Cue sad picture of Jezza C about the place.
An online campaign explodes into action and, before we know it, the Stig, an unknown Carlos Fandango dressed in white bondage gear, delivers 1 million votes in a Sherman Tank to the BBC in London.
One million votes. 
For something that, at best, is… 
You can fill out the rest. 
The other day, a friend of mine started a campaign to stop the institutional prejudice in the NHS that discriminates against people with mental health problems.
A system that guarantees a waiting time of 18 weeks between diagnosis and the start of treatment for people with physical maladies…
But one that has no such guarantee for people with mental health problems. 
In fact a system that has NO guarantee for people with mental maladies. 
None.
Nada.
Zip.
Imagine if you were the head honcho of an NHS trust.
Where would you put your limited funds? 
Would you focus on the 18 week promise?
Or would you say to yourself,
‘Hold on a second, I think people with mental health issues aren’t getting a fair slice of the cake here…’
I’ll cut to the chase. Because of this weird administrative blip, there are people with severe mental health problems  who are receiving no treatment. 
Who, in desperation often go to any open door bit of the NHS – Accident and Emergency – their GP – Minor Injuries – who are then labelled 
‘Attention Seeking’ 
and/ or 
‘Manipulative’ 
for their pains. 
As a result, my friend started a campaign to raise awareness of this weird mismatch. 
Mental ill health is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK.
Since the beginning of austerity, over 6 thousand people a year take their own lives.
75 percent of whom are men.
That’s 1 thousand more every year since the cutbacks began.
This is not a political issue. It is purely a matter of fairness. 
The campaign that my friend started demands parity of esteem – equality – between mental and physical health services. 
That’s all.
At the beginning of the campaign, my friend told me she was aiming for 100 signatures.
I thought she was being incredibly conservative (small ‘c’ there) with her target. 
I thought folk would be quick to sign up and in no time we’d have a godzillion signatures…
However, to date we’ve had 74 folk signing up…
And a complaint of spamming. 
Not what I’d expected. 
What has that Clarkson fellow got that we haven’t? 
I can play the William Tell Overture (the theme to the Lone Ranger) on my teeth with a pen. 
If the #wordsdontcount campaign reaches the dizzy heights of 100, I will make a video demonstrating that most unusual of talents. 
Just sign up here
It’ll take a moment of your time, and it’ll mean a lot. 
Have you signed? 
I don’t think we’ll beat the lovely Jeremy, but…go on, I’d love to have a shot driving a tank. 
Walk a mile
Chris
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19/03/15 It Could be you…or, why institutional discrimination is as awful as it sounds. 

Imagine going to see your GP.

Imagine after a few visits they diagnose you with…insert any physical illness you can think of here…
Imagine your doctor then says, 
‘Sorry, the NHS has a guarantee to start treatment, 18 weeks after diagnosis, for every illness and malady except for the one you’ve got…’
Quite rightfully you ask,
‘What the fuck?’
S/he may talk at length about pressure on services…priorities…efficiencies…
What they actually mean is, because there is no guarantee of how long you’ll wait, there’s no guarantee of anything – any treatment at all.
The folk in charge of services allocate their budgets in line with legislation. 
Welcome to the world of mental ill health. 
If the law points to folk having an 18 week waiting time – the budgets will reflect that. 
If the law says, ‘Do what the fuck you like, but if they’re really loopy, incarcerate them,’ then that’s how those in power at the NHS will react accordingly.
Parity of esteem. That’s all that’s required. Put us on a level playing field, and that will be a great start. 
But surely this division was made because, well, you know, mental health problems aren’t that serious. Surely the powers that be wanted the limited resources in the NHS to be given to those areas that need it most…you know, cancer ‘n’ shit…
It might be a surprise to hear that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK. 
Prior to austerity measures being put in place by this government, there were just over 5 thousand suicides a year in the UK. 
Since services have been cut back in the past 5 years,  disproportionately in the case of mental health, that figure is currently a sickening 6 thousand a year – that’s an extra thousand people a year dying – 75 percent of whom are men. 
‘Something must be done!’ declared Norman Lamb, Minister of State for health – primarily, the guy in charge of mental health services in the UK.
That’s right, in June, 2013, the very man who should be initiating action in this area, told a gathering at the Royal College of Psychiatrists,
Achieving parity of esteem between physical and mental health has long been a personal priority of mine, and something which I take every opportunity to promote in government. We must ensure that this is more than just rhetoric.’
And yet, here we all are. 
In the past 5 years, rhetoric is all we’ve had.
Oh, that and cuts…deep, swingeing cuts. 
Sure, England has been given a promise of an extra £1.5 billion for mental health services…that from the same people who sold us parity of esteem…
Hmmm.
This doesn’t do away with the artificial division between physical and mental health services – although it’s a welcome injection into decimated services – it exacerbates the situation.
Added to that, it’s not unlike being mugged in the street, where your assailant comes back, gives you a couple of quid, and says, 
‘Here mate, get yourself a coffee!’
I’ve joined a campaign that’s aiming to change this. 
You can find it on Twitter here 
#wordsdontcount
On Thunderclap here
Or get involved via the campaign website here
We can make a difference
Walk a mile
Chris 
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16/03/15 Cleggers plays pop…or Nick Clegg offers the earth…again

I’m sure I’m not the only person who remembers the statement from our deputy Prime Minister shortly after he’d got his feet under his desk in the cabinet.
A statement that came months after he’d given the country hope – a hope that someone who spoke for us – someone who was one of us – now stalked the corridors of power on behalf of us. 
A statement that came shortly after he realised that the road ahead was going to be harder than he’d originally thought.
A statement that left me cold. 

‘You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.’

Mario Cuomo

Which, to my mind means, you can promise any old bollocks when you’re not in power and then blame the system for your inability to make those promises come true.

Do you stop making promises? 

Or do you work harder to realise them?

Is it your goal to simply to stay in power? Or do you believe that only by staying in power will your ethical and philosophical hopes and dreams come true? 

Sure, a few of your principles will take a hit…but you’ve got a career…a family to feed…

So, what are we to believe when, tomorrow, we’ll hear that the government will fulfill the promises made by Mr Clegg across a variety of media platforms…

A promise that is as artful as it is potentially deceitful. 

‘You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.’

By making this promise now, just a couple of months short of the election, he’s doing both. 

The promise?

Lordy, I nearly forgot. 

He has promised that

‘Mental health services in England will receive £1.25bn in next week’s Budget,’

According to the BBC, our man of the people, for the people said,
Media caption“It’s an institutionalised form of cruelty the way we allow vulnerable children with mental health problems to…have to fend for themselves”
These sound like the words of someone who’s had nothing to do with governing the country for the past 5 years.
The words of someone who wasn’t the leader of the party to whom Norman Lamb, Minister of State at the department of health, aka the bloke responsible for mental health provision – or lack thereof, pledges allegiance. 
Sadly though, he WAS in power. 
He was there, making a noise about the lack of parity between mental health services and physical health services. He declared righteous indignation at the disparity where folk with physical illnesses are guaranteed a waiting time of 18 weeks between diagnosis and the start of treatment, and where folk with mental health problems have no such promise. 
Today there are people who are being diagnosed with severe mental health problems but are offered NO treatment because of this unbalanced system. 
He was part of a government that squeezed the poor and vulnerable in the vice of austerity until, each year, a thousand more of us took our own lives through the loss of hope, the loss of a meaningful future.
During the term of this government, thirty thousand of our fellow citizens have taken their own lives.
Have we invaded that particular country? 
During these years, where operation Yewtree and the Saville Enquiry, along with other public investigations into  sexual abuse, mental health services have been systematically decimated across the UK. 
Thousands of mental health nurse jobs have vanished while hundreds of millions of pounds have been cut from health and local authority mental health budgets.
We live in a weird world where the punishment of of offenders is given more time and valuable resources than the support of the abused. 
Nowhere is this obscene incongruence seen more than in our own justice system. 
Since 1993, the prison population in England and Wales has almost doubled, breaking through the almost inconceivable figure of 86 thousand.
70 percent of whom have one or more diagnosed mental health problems. 
Almost a quarter of all adult prisoners were in some manner of care as children. 
Almost 40 percent of all prisoners under 21 had been in care as children. 
The price of a year’s incarceration has dropped from around £40 thousand a year to £36 thousand – a drop that means that these vulnerable – yes, vulnerable people aren’t given valuable time to talk to a professional. 
Look here for more on that 
Even with the new economy prisons, this is a cost of £1.5 billion each and every year. 

Money that could be used to care is being used to punish instead. 
So, tomorrow, when Mr Osbourne tells us about this promised land for people with mental health problems – one that we can almost touch, just over the horizon of the general election – take some time to think.
Is he campaigning in poetry or…? 
How have we fared under this particular flavour of prose?
Yes, you’re right, it’s time for some balance…
Looking at the labour party’s policies on mental health…


Well, if this is an example of them campaigning in poetry, we’re all fucked.
Yes, I’m angry. No, I don’t have an answer.
Unless mental ill health is treated with the respect it deserves and is prioritised accordingly, things won’t change in any meaningful way. 
We need public will and desire to make a real difference. 
And that, ultimately, is what it boils down to.
If you want things to change, it starts with you. 
Walk a mile
Chris
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